In the months after the pandemic hit last year, demand for the Latitude Margaritaville brand of 55-plus communities inspired by Jimmy Buffett surged — and it hasn’t slowed down since.
“For Minto and the brand, we had a very successful and strong sales year last year, and we’ve seen that spill over into this year,” William Bullock, president of Minto Communities’ Latitude Margaritaville division, told Senior Housing News.
Since launching the brand in 2017 in partnership with global brand Margaritaville Holdings, developer Minto has developed three Latitude Margaritaville communities with for-sale homes and centralized amenities in Hilton Head, South Carolina; and in Daytona Beach and Panama City Beach, Florida.
“Our four principles are food, fun, music and escapism, and I think that registered with a lot of buyers,” Bullock said. “Starting in May/June of 2020, we saw a huge surge in demand, and it never waned.”
The significant demand for the Latitude Margaritaville could be a signal that other senior living developers and operators should heed. Even before the pandemic, Latitude Margaritaville represented a fresh approach to active adult living — on that eschews terms like “retirement” or “senior” and puts the focus on a unique and specific lifestyle. Covid-19 has only made consumers hungrier for what Minto is bringing to life in these developments, according to Bullock.
Thanks to that surge of demand, the company is building out the existing locations and scouring other markets for suitable sites. But Minto has also closed the door to some ideas for now, such as co-locating a rental active adult or senior living community on the site of a Latitude Margaritaville community.
Changes in Latitudes
At the Daytona Beach community, Minto has sold more than 2,000 of its allocated 3,900 home units to date, with about 1,400 finished homes built, Bullock said. Last year, Minto sold more than 600 homes in the community, and the company is on pace to exceed that number this year.
At the Hilton Head site, Minto has sold about 1,000 homes, with more than 560 built. And at Latitude Margaritaville Watersound in Panama City Beach, the company just broke ground on the first 200 homes to be constructed.
Home prices vary by site and layout, but typically cost between $250,000 to a little more than $400,000, Bullock said. The homes are slightly more expensive now than they were a couple years ago, a byproduct of the elevated cost of building materials and construction labor, he added.
All told, Minto has a mailing list of about 400,000 people who are interested in its Latitude Margaritaville communities, according to Bullock.
There are several factors that Bullock believes helped the Latitude Margaritaville communities stay ahead of sales during the pandemic. For one, while Latitude Margaritaville properties did limit the use of communal spaces during the pandemic, they did not have to enact quite as strict restrictions on visitors or communal spaces, as residents have freestanding homes with dedicated entrances.
The pandemic also led to many older adults foregoing social interaction to stay safe. As many of them venture back out into the world, Bullock said the desire to have fun is top of mind, especially after a long year of lockdowns and social distancing.
And with amenities including resort-style pools, concert stages, fitness centers, game and hobby rooms, arts and and Margaritaville-themed food and beverage concepts, the Latitude communities have much to offer in that respect.
“I think the pandemic made us all very aware that life is fragile,” Bullock said. “We saw it push people to make life-altering decisions regarding where they live and how they live.”
While Minto had previously considered teaming up with an apartment group to develop an active adult rental community at a Latitude Margaritaville community, the developer wasn’t able to make the numbers work in a way that made business sense.
“The economics are still more favorable for us to build and sell product on that land as opposed to selling it for long-term rentals,” Bullock said. “That may change in the future, but right now, we’re still very focused on for-sale.”
Because the average age of Latitude Margaritaville residents is currently just 64 years, Bullock also doesn’t believe the time is right to team up with an independent living or assisted living provider to co-locate a senior living community. But Bullock also sees opportunities to leverage relationships with Minto’s project partners to help fill the gap when residents need to age in place.
For example, Minto is developing its Watersound community in Panama City Beach in partnership with St. Joe (NYSE: JOE), and the project partners have engaged Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare to build a medical campus adjacent to the property.
Looking ahead, Minto has its eye on other markets for expanding the Latitude Margaritaville brand — such as Texas and other markets farther west — where it is “combing locations” for acquisition targets, according to Bullock.
“We’re excited to, over the next year or two, grow our footprint in a meaningful way and provide more geographic diversity,” Bullock said.
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